Monday 17 October 2016

Quality Inside Bend

First off, I do get the irony of writing a post about inside bend right after the post where I finally put it out there that I want to get to Prix St. George someday, it's not exactly a high level concept. However, part of me becoming a better rider is focusing on basics.

Post ride rolls are an important part of Kachina's day

Up until a couple years ago I only had a cursory knowledge of the dressage training pyramid. I am now trying to incorporate it into my riding more and more though.

Rhythm 》Relaxation 》Connection 》Impulsion 》Straightness 》Collection

Rhythm and relaxation are things that I have spent a lot of time with Kachina on. Someone else may have been able to make improvements more quickly, but these aren't things that things that are naturally easy for Kachina. Her number one tendency was to get fast and tense whenever something happened. Over time we have made lots of small steps that have added up to big improvements. My recent changes to my position were a final piece in the puzzle. There is no doubt that we will have revisit rhythm and relaxation again in the future, but for now we can consistently achieve them in each ride and it's time to move up the pyramid.

Moving up the pyramid right now means both connection and straightness. Improved connection is my goal, but we need correct bend and straightness to make that happen.

I'm well aquainted with the concept of getting connection using the steps of 1. Get inside eye, 2. Push with inside leg... 3. ..into outside rein. With past horses I have ridden, step 1 has essentially just been a cursory check, and most of my focus was on 2 and 3.

I did some analysis with Kachina and found that we have a serious hole in our training when it comes to inside bend. I can get Kachina's inside eye, but not always with a correct soft bend in her neck. Sometimes she tips at her poll, sometimes she braces in her upper neck, and sometimes she does almost an S bend with her whole neck. I am now focused on fixing this.

A serious part of the problem is my inability to let go of my outside rein. Using outside rein has been so drilled into me, that I find it so difficult both mentally and physically to use less outside rein and more inside. One factor is that my last horse Ellie would get seriously pissed and even buck if I used too much inside rein, so she essentially taught me to ride off the outside aids. Also, before I got Kachina's rhythm steadier, I needed the outside rein quite a bit for speed control.

I need to make myself let go of the outside rein so that I can make the aid for proper inside bend extra clear to Kachina. I've only been focused on this for a few rides so far, but I think it's already working. It's going to take a lot more work but I'm stoked that I discovered an issue and a path forward on my own.

Working on inside bend equals soft foamy lips


  1. Being self aware and then self correcting is a huge step! It's so hard to do.

    1. Agreed. I don't have a regular trainer, and not all our issues are apparent at clinics so I'm trying to get better at this. During one of my recent rides I had to literally bring Kachina to a halt and think to myself "Okay, what is the next step, what do I need to try?"

  2. I always find that when something starts to drive me nutty I'm close to fixing it. Of course then something else drives me nutty...

    1. You sound like you're ahead of me in knowing what you need to work on. I will notice several issues but it still takes conscious thought on my part to figure out what needs to be dealt with first.